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Full text of "Rapid Population Growth Consequences And Policy Implications"

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Whereas the primary effect of liberalized abortion laws in posttransitional, or modernized, countries is to enhance maternal and child health, in transitional countries it appears to be also an integral part of speedier fertility decline.
In nearly all transitional countries, with the recent exception of Tunisia and possibly mainland China, the existing abortion laws are highly restrictive. Restrictive laws have probably curtailed the overall number of induced abortions, but there are large groups of fertile females in all developing countries who are so resolutely determined to limit family size that an illegal abortion is deemed preferable to an additional child. The ever-increasing number of abortions performed beyond the protection of public laws and outside the safety of adequate medical facilities has created a serious health problem—as well as the problems created by a situation in which many women who do not want an expected child fear the repercussions of an illegal abortion.
Although fewer in number and significance, illegal abortions in the more developed countries create the same health problems as those in transitional countries. In several west and south European countries and in most of the United States, therapeutic abortion for medical reasons only is the sole legal basis for terminating a pregnancy.
The United States. In the United States the letter of the law varies considerably from state to state, but the general tone of abortion laws has been overwhelmingly restrictive. As of 1967, abortion was illegal in forty-five states, unless necessary to preserve the life of the woman; and in seven states to prevent the birth of children with high risks of mortality or deformity (116).
In 1959 the American Law Institute proposed a Model Penal Code to modify abortion laws. This code would allow abortion by licensed physicians in cases where (a) there is substantial risk that the mother's physical or mental health may be impaired; (b) the child would be born with serious physical or mental defect; or (c) pregnancy is the result of rape or incest (117). Among both professionals and the general public, attitudes toward acceptance of this code are growing more favorable (118). Based on the recommendations of the American Law Institute, five states—California, Georgia, Maryland, Colorado, and North Carolina-modified their abortion laws in 1967 and 1968. Early in the 1970's a movement began in several state legislatures to make abortion a decision of a woman and her physician, indicating that opinion and policy may be going beyond the Model Penal Code.
One of the inevitable results of restrictive abortion laws is a lack of abortion statistics in the United States. The data reported by hospitals concern only "therapeutic abortions" for which in recent years an approximate ratio of 2 therapeutic abortions per 1,000 live births has been reported (119).
The data available on the total number of abortions in the country is unreliable and is based mainly on "informed guesses" or indirect methods of